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Two Bills in Legislature to Help Solve Flooding Problem

Joint Schroeder and Wagner proposed bill will order reservoirs be lowered during weather emergencies to control flooding; Gordon bill proposes to use Green Acres funding to buy Blue Acres properties

Two bills have been introduced into the New Jersey state Legislature in response to continued flooding occurring throughout northern Bergen County, most recently during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. 

The first bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Schroeder (R-Washington Township) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Paramus) would order reservoirs be lowered during weather emergencies in order to control flooding.

This bill would require action plans for flood-prone reservoirs and authorize the State Office of Emergency Management to order that the owners of reservoirs and dams release water during severe storms as a means to mitigate flooding. 

“If we learned anything from the historic storms that have struck this year, it’s that people cannot continue to endure perpetual flooding without new solutions,” Schroeder, R-Bergen, said. “This proposal is a logical and proactive approach that will help mitigate flooding before it occurs.”

The bill also gives the state OEM the authority to order lower water levels of these reservoirs to ease the severity of flooding that results from storms, such as Irene.

“This is a key step toward a comprehensive long-term solution to the chronic flooding that has been a real nightmare for people in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey,” Schroeder said.

Owners of flood-prone reservoirs would be required to submit Flood Action Plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection and in return they would receive indemnification against claims that are related to the implementation of the plan.

“This measure will help us find a way to keep our residents’ homes safe from flooding but keep drinking water accessible.” Assemblywoman Wagner said, “We must all work together to find comprehensive solutions to our flooding problems. This legislation will help that process.”

The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fairlawn), would allow municipalities to use open space trust funds (Green Acres) for the purchase of flood-prone properties. 

The reasoning is that this would keep taxpayers from repeatedly paying to repair flooded properties while providing a buffer to help protect nearby properties from future flooding. The state currently has about $26 million dedicated to Blue Acres purchases.

The money raised through local open-space taxes, which is subject to voter approval, could be used to buy out homeowners, knock down flood-prone structures and turn the property into parks.

But United Water spokesman Richard Henning said lowering reservoirs during weather emergencies is not the best way to control flooding.

In response to these bills, Henning told Patch, "This legislative bill co-sponsored by Schroeder and Wagner is very shortsighted. (Gordon) has an excellent bill to use Green Acres money for (acquiring) Blue Acres property that United Water fully supports. This is the long term view."

He continued, "Any use of the reservoir (to control flooding) is not in the best interest of all of our customers and not in the best interest of water supply."

dave bager November 30, 2011 at 09:50 PM
If United Water continues to flood our communities without impunity where will this leave all our bankrupt residents... not to mention our near bankrupt govt./fema. It has become increasingly clear that our insurance companies don't really want to pay for these repetitive flooding events.... every time it rains, now ...it seams!!! Rich Henning has a great job... and must be being paid very , very well!!!! He must go home from these meetings and have a big laugh!!!!!
LivinLocal December 01, 2011 at 04:23 AM
“We must all work together to find comprehensive solutions to our flooding problems. This legislation will help that process.” This legislation as a solution is a mirage. As much as we like to attack United Water and Mr. Henning they are partially right in that releasing water ahead of a storm may offer a delay in our flooding but it won’t control it. Blue Acres funding won’t solve the problem either unless you can buy up whole blocks; and we know not everyone is going to sell their “homes.” Could towns’ even sustain the lost tax revenues of those homes? I had a long talk with a friend and he makes sense. We need to toughen zoning legislation over development in flood prone areas; and decrease the impervious areas that exist in those areas to nothing more then an existing home’s footprint. We need to dredge our streams and get legislation to allow it, enforce regulation to stop dumping of leaves and vegetative waste into the waterways by homeowners along those waterways. Eliminate choke areas by bridges, and make sure storm drains, both private and municipal, are maintained; then maybe flooding events will be reduced. But having government regulate reservoir operations is as shortsighted as the regulation of banks, mortgage holders got caught short and flood prone property holders should expect no better.

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